Joanne Bateman succeeds Charles Dewhurst, who stepped down from the role at the end of last year, after more than 20 years in the job.
The MDU's in-house legal department, which supports dental professionals and doctors facing negligence claims, complaints to the GDC and GMC and criminal investigations, was first established by Charles in 1993. From a team of two solicitors, there are now 30 lawyers and 12 support staff.
"The dento and medico-legal environments have changed significantly during my 22 years as head of department. In the early years, most of our work was in dealing with clinical negligence claims but with the increased number of GDC and GMC investigations, we now spend more time supporting members with regulatory investigations. This is partly due to the special expertise needed to deal with these investigations along with the importance to our members of such cases when their career may be in the balance. We have developed a skillset to enable all our members' needs to be met.
"We now train our own solicitors and my proudest achievement is the quality of the team we’ve established and their devotion to providing not just legal but moral support to dental professionals and doctors at such a difficult time."
Charles, who will continue to work for the MDU part time handling cases on behalf of dental professionals and doctors, added:
"I am pleased to be handing over to Joanne. She has the same commitment to guiding members through the dento and medico-legal minefield which most members will have to tread at some stage during their career."
Joanne, who began her role at the start of 2016, first joined the MDU in 2000 after four years working for a claimants' law firm.
"It is a great privilege to be taking over from Charles who has overseen a significant expansion of the in-house legal team. I don't anticipate the dento or medico-legal environment becoming any less complex for our members over the coming years and is vital for our members to have access to an appropriately skilled legal team.
"My aim is to honour Charles' legacy by continuing to develop the professional expertise of our solicitors and maintain our exceptional record of success in assisting members."
This guidance was correct at publication 07/01/2016. It is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.